49ºF

With Bonnen sidelined, House Republicans spearhead new PAC to protect majority

Texas House of Representatives. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

A group of Texas House Republicans is making a multimillion-dollar effort to defend their majority in 2020 with their speaker sidelined and Democrats pushing to flip the chamber.

Earlier this month, the group quietly filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission to create Leading Texas Forward PAC, with famed Republican strategist Karl Rove listed as the treasurer.

One of the House Republicans involved in the PAC, Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday the goal is to raise about $5 million this cycle, mainly to protect GOP incumbents in the general election. But he said the group could also get involved in primaries to boost incumbents as well as open-seat races.

Democrats are effectively nine seats away from the majority, and the group's formation comes as House Republicans regroup after the scandal that caused Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, to announce last month he will not seek reelection. Bonnen had set up a PAC to protect the majority seeded with $3 million of his own campaign funds — money whose fate remains unknown.

Geren said Tuesday he has not spoken to Bonnen about what he will do with the $3 million.

The TEC paperwork for the PAC lists five House Republicans as "contribution decision makers" and "expenditure decision makers": Geren, as well as Reps. Drew Darby of San Angelo, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Four Price of Amarillo and Chris Paddie of Marshall. Noting the form only allowed five names, Geren said several more House Republicans are involved, including Reps. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, Greg Bonnen of Friendswood, Kyle Kacal of College Station and John Kuempel of Seguin.

Read related Tribune coverage